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Crafty scorer leads Eagan

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 02/08/13, 5:03PM CST


Junior Michael Gorder leads a Wildcats team that has surprised even itself with its record.

Eagan’s Michael Gorder put up a first-half shot against Apple Valley’s Brock Bertram in a recent game. After playing little on the varsity last year as a sophomore, Gorder has emerged as a scorer this year. Photo: Jeff Wheeler • jwheeler@startribune.com

Michael Gorder leads Eagan in scoring, but many people, including himself, wouldn't necessarily realize it right away without some statistical evidence in front of them.

For example, the Wildcats defeated Lakeville South 83-72 a couple of weeks ago. The junior guard played exceptionally well. After his last basket, he thought it was his 20th point of the night.

Not quite.

"Evidently, I had 39," Gorder said.

Even coach Matt Vollum sometimes wonders how the totals keep adding up, night in and night out.

"We get done with games and look at how much he's scored. He gets them so quietly," said Vollum, who is in his first year at Eagan. "He can get them from everywhere. He's just a quiet scorer, and a pretty nice surprise. He's just a crafty basketball player that has a way of scoring."

With eight seniors on last year's squad, Gorder didn't get much varsity experience as a sophomore. Now, thrust into a lead role, he's starting to blossom. Gorder does the little things: nab rebounds, put in layups, sink three-pointers and sink jump shots.

"I'm not showboating or anything. Just trying to do everything the right way," Gorder said.

Along with Gorder, senior captains Ryan Johnson and Mark Woodcock have helped Eagan surprise themselves with an 11-6 overall record and 7-4 conference mark this season.

Johnson, a 6-4 shooting guard, is averaging 11.9 points per game. He's the team's best on-ball defender. He'll defend the opponents' top player on the court.

"In the past eight to 10 games, he's been real consistent scoring in double figures and solid on both ends of the floor, which has been great," Vollum said.

Woodcock, at 6-3, is scoring 8.1 points per game.

"He's the energy for us," Vollum added. "He's real aggressive. He's a tough kid and plays physical and leads us in those categories."

Juniors Scott Danielson and Jack Kelm have been sharing the point guard position with sophomore G.T. Johnson, giving Eagan an array of young ball-handlers. Johnson will also step in as needed.

Long and athletic, the Wildcats are strong defensively. It's what they'll need to continue doing well to win games in the South Suburban Conference and in the postseason. The Wildcats knew they would be inexperienced as they grew accustomed to playing for a new head coach.

"He's been great," Gorder said of Vollum. "We're really on the same page offensively and defensively. All the tips he's been giving me are great."

Vollum spent several years as an assistant at Bloomington Jefferson before becoming head coach at Bloomington Kennedy for six years. He then stepped away for three years to get his doctoral degree before taking the job at Eagan this year.

Now that they're all more familiar with each other, the Wildcats hope they can continue surprising.

"It's not what I expected. I don't think it's what any of the guys expected," Gorder said. "Hopefully we can continue playing better down the stretch here."

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